Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pink Hats, Part VII: Days My Mother Warned Me About

"I have a confession to make," Jessie said, solemnly, "and I hope this won't be too difficult for you, but if it is, I understand. A person can only take so much and then it's goodbye, so long, farewell, this is it."

They were stopped at Franklin and Cumberland on the way back to her apartment after lunch and a walk along the Old Port. He glanced away from the traffic light for an instant and said, "Oh my God, Halley wasn't kidding, women really are from Venus and that means -- "

" -- yes! I'm an alien!" she shouted as if coming out of the inter-galactic closet after years of blending in as a human. Stretching out her arms toward him, she added in a flat, robotic tone, "Take-me-to-your-lead-er."

They laughed so hard they missed the light. The driver behind them laid on his horn, Bob waved an apology, and the driver waved back with an expressive middle finger. "Mm, I'll be damned," he said, "poor guy's had all his fingers amputated but one. Must be from Boston."

They erupted into laughter once again, barely catching the change and accelerating. It's a well-known urban myth that Boston residents learn to drive with one hand on the wheel, the other on the horn, and waving the middle finger is exemplary of wireless communication.

"I can't remember when I've laughed so hard." He glanced over at her and smiled appreciatively.

She smiled back, blushed, then turned away and sighed. "Well, as to my confession. We've known each other...what, five years, six? Let's see, we met in November of my second year, then rotations times two years, residency three, and now I'm two months into my fellowship -- five and a half? And in all that time, I've had no idea what kind of car you drove. Not that it matters, because it doesn't, but I put you into a Mercedes E-type Cabriolet or a BMW Z4 roadster -- sporty, but not too showy. They seemed like a good fit for the person I knew. How could I have been so off the mark?"

"That's your confession? I was expecting San Quintin," he said, chuckling. "You weren't wrong. In fact, you were spot-on -- I had one of each, though the Mercedes was an S-type sedan, as well as an older Range Rover. The Z4 was fun, I guess. If I had it to do over, a 60s model XKE would be my first choice, but not restored. I like to tinker. I grew up next door to a car junkie who raced an old Triumph TR-3 at club events. I hung around, learned a few things, and he'd take me to the track sometimes."

"I love classic cars. You said 'had,' though, what happened?"

"I let them go in the divorce. I got the house, she wanted the condo in Vail. Vail's nice, but Winter Park or Saddleback is more my speed. I want to ski, not preen. This is my year for the snowboard, by the way. I refuse to let Shaun White have all the fun."

"Um, how old again, did you say you were?" she asked, with a little half smile, "Fifteen was it?"

"Something like that. Anyhow, after the dust settled, I traded the Rover. We're really past the point of indulging our gas addiction, but I still wanted four-wheel drive. The Ford Escape was best in its class for hybrid mileage and I was tired of having a car that screamed, 'Physician On Board.' My one accommodation to social acceptability was the Eddie Bauer logo and I only got that because I liked the color combination that came with it."

"This suits you, no question. And I was thinking the same thing when I got my Prius -- about gas, that is," she said.
They were nearly at her apartment, a remodeled traditional New England style dating from the last century. She rented the upper level for the view it provided of the City at night, but it was the full width white porch that captured her heart. A few blocks from Maine Med, she could walk to the hospital.

As he slid into an open parking space in front of the house and clicked off the switch, she became serious. "Something has me wondering."

"Wondering what?"

"We were talking about layers earlier and you have so many. Maybe it's too soon to say this, but I can't help wondering if I can match you. What I mean is, I don't want you to find me boring because I don't have your experience."

Days my mother warned me about, he thought, choose your words carefully. He leaned closer and reaching his arm round her shoulder, gently stroked the nape of her neck. "My mother was quite a bit younger than my dad, have I told you?" She shook her head almost imperceptibly as her lips framed a silent no. "I was in college and she and I were having a mother to son about finding the right girl. 'Similarities are important,' she said, 'but it's the differences between your father and me -- and yes, I mean our ages, especially -- that have always been the very best part of our relationship; they keep both of us interested.' You are the most fascinating woman I've ever known, Jess."

She put her hand to his cheek and said, her eyes filling, "I was so hoping you'd say that."

(Creative Commons image of house in Portland, ME by catchesthelight via Flickr)

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